In Pursuit of a Ph.D.

After earning a D.V.M., students seek a Ph.D. at Cummings School
Fernando Vilchez Delgado poses for a picture on a beach in front of a large rock formation
Fernando Vilchez Delgado on the beach at Punta San Juan, Peru.

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University graduates approximately 100 students from its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) program each year. In addition to a trio of graduate and dual degree programs, a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences provides a unique opportunity for aspiring physicians and researchers.

Below are the stories of a trio of students who have earned a D.V.M. and are working toward a Ph.D. at Cummings School.

Fernando Vilchez Delgado
Fernando Vilchez Delgado moved from his home in northern Peru to Lima, the capital, to attend the School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. During the five-year program, he interned at the Universidad de São Paulo in Brazil and Cornell University. For the last two years Fernando has been working on a project, studying diseases in primates obtained through illegal trafficking.

A friend of Fernando has worked for several years with Marieke Rosenbaum, V14, a Cummings School research assistant professor. “I was introduced to her because she has worked with primates in Peru,” he explains. “That was awesome to learn.” Rosenbaum informed him about the opportunity at Cummings School and eventually persuaded Fernando to apply to the Ph.D. program.

“This is an outstanding academic institution that has excellent professionals and is very welcoming to international students,” Fernando asserts.

Rosenbaum and Amanda Martinot, assistant professor, Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health, serve as Fernando’s mentors. “I have two excellent mentors. They helped me a lot during the application and my first weeks on campus,” he acknowledges.

With research partners located in Belgium, Fernando is considering an internship at the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp in Belgium. “I’d like to do some serological tests in several samples for different pathogens in primates,” he says.

At the conclusion of the four-year program, Fernando will complete a dissertation, which he has already started to discuss with his mentors, despite his recent campus arrival in March. “I hope to focus on something related to the evaluations of disease in primates, either from wildlife or from illegal trafficking,” Fernando shares.

Although it is a few years away, Fernando has an idea about what he may wish to pursue after graduation. “I would like to continue conducting research or maybe work on a project where I could be in charge of applying for research grants,” he claims.

Evan Griffith poses for a selfie with three other veterinarians
Evan Griffith VG17, V21, poses with Billy Mawindo, a University of Global Health Equity master’s degree student, and Rwandan veterinarians Thierry Turibyariye and Rita Kwibuka at the Zipline distribution center, Muhanga, Southern Province, Rwanda.

Evan Griffith, VG17, V21
After earning a Master’s in Conservation Medicine (MCM) and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health dual degree through Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the highly inquisitive and motivated Evan Griffith VG17, V22, will return in September to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences.

Evan hails from a highly rural area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where he was raised by two wildlife biologists. “My parents work with endangered birds, so I spent my childhood in the field with them and became invested in biology and wildlife conservation,” he explains.

While earning a B.S. in biology from Grinnell College in Iowa, Evan worked with marmots and learned about behavioral ecology at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. He worked in his advisor’s fungal biology laboratory and conducted public health research investigating antimicrobial resistance on hog confinements. Evan also studied abroad in South Africa with the Organization for Tropical Studies, where they learned about community-based conservation and savannah ecology.

While abroad, he was introduced to Cummings School by a friend and decided to apply after visiting the campus. “I was always interested in veterinary medicine and found that the MCM program fit well in my broad interests,” Evan says.

After completing the MCM program, he was accepted to the D.V.M./M.P.H. dual degree program and learned about the work of Research Professor Jeffrey Mariner accomplished in the Rinderpest eradication campaign, also known as the cattle plague. Through that, Evan became interested in pastoralism and integrated vaccination, where veterinarians and public health officials collaborate on a One Health approach to vaccinating people and animals from nomadic populations.

“My interest in integrated vaccination led me to help develop a One Health framework for integrated service delivery for all public services in Turkana, a pastoral portion of Kenya,” Evan asserts.

He later worked with Hellen Amuguni, associate professor, Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health, on Rift Valley Fever prevention through an innovative model of service delivery for livestock vaccination. “The mosquito-borne virus affects cattle and wildlife populations and can spill over into humans and can cause really nasty disease.”

During the last two years of the proliferation of COVID-19, Evan co-authored a paper with recommendations for the public health response to COVID among pastoralists in the greater horn of Africa, as well as a book chapter on the impacts of COVID on food security among East and West African pastoralists.

After completing his D.V.M./M.P.H. in 2021, he was hired as a small animal clinician at Northern Rhode Island Animal Hospital. “It’s a great clinic where I am solidifying my clinical skills,” Evan shares, working alongside two fellow Cummings School alumni veterinarians—Andrea Ster, V04, and Abigail McElroy, V17.

He is eager to return to campus in the fall and further explore the outcomes and perceptions of One Health service delivery in pastoral areas of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, which will be the focus of Evan’s Ph.D. dissertation under advisor Amuguni.

Evan looks forward to a fulfilling career. “[After graduation] I hope to continue my international collaboration by either staying in academia as a research professor or to work on program implementation in pastoral areas with a non-government organization, so, I’m keeping my options open.”

Jonathon “J.J.” Stone, V22
Jonathon “J.J.” Stone, V22, was among the graduating students profiled prior to the 2022 Commencement when he earned a D.V.M. from Cummings School. He has continued toward a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences while researching in the school’s Runstadler Lab and studying influenza A viruses and the species they infect.